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SALT LAKE CITY -- Some people research their ancestors online or in libraries, but one Utah man has turned that research into a movie. T.C. Christensen is a well-known Utah filmmaker. He and his cousins grew up hearing about their ancestor John Tanner. They decided the story was worth telling on film.

In 1832, wealthy New York entrepreneur John Tanner heard his diseased, probably gangrenous leg, was killing him. But it wasn't the end, rather a beginning.

Some of his descendants are now telling his story on film. T.C. Christensen grew up hearing about parts of his life. He says, "I didn't really know the depth of it and decided to take a look at it, did some research and then just found out, wow, this is an amazing man! He deserves to have his story told."

In the movie "Treasure in Heaven: The John Tanner Story," Christensen describes his ancestor becoming a Latter-day Saint, the miraculous healing of his leg and then his generous gifts of money to save the Kirtland Temple property from foreclosure.

Christensen enlisted his cousin, Ron Tanner. They also cast dozens of other family members in extra roles. They were determined to do the film for their own families.

Tanner says, "If they're going to hear the story and be able to pass on this great legacy to their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, if T.C. couldn't do this ... if we couldn't do this together, who's going to do it?"

Tanner's posterity is now in the hundreds of thousands, some well-known Latter-day Saint leaders among them, including N. Eldon Tanner, Marion D. Hanks, Hugh B. Brown and James E. Faust.

Tanner says, "He went through a lot of trials and tribulations in his lifetime and actually said at the end of it, 'If other people had life easier than I did, they didn't learn as much.'"

That life took him from a beautiful home in New York state built in 1815 to a humble cottage in Cottonwood, Utah built in 1848.

Christensen says, "I hope that people who see the film come away with a little less selfishness, think more about giving, taking care of their fellow man ... That's really the main message that John Tanner left with us."

"Treasure in Heaven: The John Tanner Story" is only about 25 minutes long. The DVD is available in stores where Latter-day Saint products are sold or online at


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